Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Hey, It's Video Game Related

If you're my age, this hits ALL of the right notes.


Forget The Avengers, THIS is what I'd like to see.

I mean, Adam Sandler can't screw this one up, can he? He even has Peter Dinklage in it!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Revenge of the Liebster

Syl over at MMO Gypsy has tagged me with a Liebster, which meant that it took about a year for the award to get back to me.

It's baaaack!

I've been perusing her questions, and while most of them I knew the answer to immediately, there were a few that I needed some time to consider.

Without further delay, here's my answers to Syl's questions:

1. If you could learn a new language overnight, which would it be?
German. Practicality be damned, I like the sound of the language.* Besides, I know enough German speakers --including the mini-Reds, who have been taking German as their foreign language requirement at school-- that it'd be fun to actually converse in German.

2. What is the first MMO you’d want to visit in full VR mode?
Hmm.  I'm assuming that they'd also get an graphical upgrade, so I'd say LOTRO, with SWTOR a close second. I suppose for the pure titillation factor there's Age of Conan, but the sword and sorcery landscape that is the Hyborean Age is too brutal for me to enjoy in a VR mode. WoW would be interesting, but I'd be more up for it in the Vanilla/BC/Wrath WoW (pre-Cata) areas.

3. If you got to invite a dead person over for tea and biscuits, who would it be?
This was a toughie.

I thought about what sort of person I'd like to invite over, which really defines who I'd invite. There are a ton of interesting people out there, from the enlightened monarch Frederick of Prussia to the true Renaissance Man Leonardo da Vinci, with everyone from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Albert Einstein to Bartolome de las Casas to Bette Davis in between. I'd like to chat with Copernicus about his observations of the heavens, Cleopatra about how she was able to use all of her skills to hold onto power in Egypt, and Lao Tsu just to hear him talk. Imagine talking with Mae West about how much of her act was based on her own sexuality, or Tchaikovsky about how much of his own personality went into his composing.

But if I'm going to be forced to choose, I'd say it would be my Great Aunt, who passed away over 16 years ago. Sure, I know all the stories she'd tell by heart --she said the same 15 stories for the last 20 years of her life-- but I wouldn't mind.

4. What kind of biscuits would you serve?
McVities Original Digestives. Yes, I do know about McVities --I get them at Jungle Jim's-- and while I personally prefer the dark chocolate ones, I know those won't necessarily go with tea.

5. Who should go down first: House Lannister, House Frey or House Bolton?
Since I haven't read the books (or seen the series), I threw dice and got House Frey.

6. Justice means:
– a) everyone gets what they work for
– b) everyone gets the same
– c) everyone gets what they need
For me, A, but with one caveat: the value of the work is is directly proportional to its criticality. In an office where three people get the day to day business done while others sit in meetings, guess who gets the most reward in my scenario?  (Hint: not the meeting people.)

7. If you could see one of your favorite games get a sequel, it would be….?
Hmm. Most of the games (video games-wise) that I like already either are sequels or have a sequel out there. However, for a GOOD sequel, I'd have to say Master of Orion.

8. If a person were to split a pot of 1000$ between them and yourself on condition of you accepting their first offer, would you rather accept 100 bucks or both go empty?
Hopefully, that person wouldn't be a complete jerk and try to take almost all of the money, but if they did try to give me only $100, I'd much rather us both go empty.

9. Which in game MMO place/location do you consider a home to return to?
When I played WoW, this would have been Eversong Forest.  There is absolutely no doubt in my mind; because even when I played Alliance characters I would occasionally sneak into Eversong to wander around.

Since I no longer hang out in Azeroth, I found this is a tougher question than I thought.

A big argument could be made that I don't really have a "home base" anymore; I play several games and there are several favorite haunts, but nothing quite says home to me like Eversong Forest did. Of course, a great deal of that is that my first moments playing an MMO were playing a Blood Elf Priest on WoW, so it's natural that I'd think of Eversong Forest as a place to return to when I'm in need of a recharge.

So maybe I really don't have a home anymore, which does make sense, given that I do wander about MMOs quite a bit these days.

10. Favorite midnight snack when nobody’s looking?
Um, it depends. Right now, it's some Swiss chocolate, but I've been known to cook up a grilled cheese sandwich or nosh on some hummus and pita bread.


I know a big part of the Liebster is to go and tap a bunch of other bloggers, but since my last attempt wound up with very few takers, I think I'm going to pass this time. As the old saying goes, "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

*Yes, I'm one of those who think that a foreign language sounds sexy. (Yes, even German. I'm sure there are skeptics.) Maybe I should insert the obligatory A Fish Called Wanda clip about the sexiness of foreign languages, such as Russian....

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Blizzard discovers that time is actually money

One of the best of The Far Side comics was this one:

Gary Larson, 1985. For some reason my copy wouldn't
scan right, so thank goodness for the internet.

I think it's safe to say that Blizzard has discovered the same thing. And, unlike Einstein, they're building their WoW token system based on another's work: EVE (and Wildstar, too).*

Another thing that's certain: Blizzard believes that few enough people will be taking advantage of this option for them to absorb any subscription losses involved. By setting the real world cost for the WoW tokens themselves --and allow only the token to change hands once-- they can tinker with the corresponding end price on the AH without becoming directly involved in the gold farmer black market.

I'm with Rohan on this; I'd prefer that Blizzard just turn into any other cash shop and sell gold directly to players. Blizzard isn't going to eliminate subscriptions, and the high end raiding guilds will likely recruit players just so they become gold farmers to subsidize the raid team's subscriptions.

For the majority of WoW subscribers, this announcement isn't going to change a thing. They'll still pay their $180/year (more or less) and get their gaming on. For those who play the AH and amass a lot of gold, however, they'll be able to live off the fruits of others' money.

*I suppose Newton and Calculus would have been a more apt comparison than using Einstein, but Einstein is easier to draw.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

More Musings on a Vulcan's Passing

One of my first memories was of Star Trek.

My parents had a black and white television throughout the 70s, and in the afternoons the local independent television station would show all sorts of cartoons from 3 PM until 5 PM.* And at 5, like clockwork, the image of the starship Enterprise whooshed across the screen. My five year old self was riveted to the screen in much the same way the mini-Reds are to Star Wars Rebels and Marvel's Agents of SHIELD**. When the aliens appeared at the end of Part 1 of The Menagerie, I would have nightmares that they would somehow turn me into an automaton like Captain Pike had become. (Hey, I was young and couldn't follow the plot that well.)

Talosians, with their pulsing craniums,
still give me the creeps.

But more importantly than that, Star Trek served as my entry drug into Science Fiction and Fantasy, and none more so than Mr. Spock.

Leonard Nimoy's Spock was captivating. Sure, he seemed like a soulless computer at times, but underneath it all he did have the same emotions as the rest of us, only well hidden. He was part alien, misunderstood by a lot of his crewmates, and still forged friendships among them. After meeting Spock and the rest of the crew of the Enterprise, I simply couldn't watch anything resembling "aliens-as-monsters" which dominated what passed for SF on television.

As I grew older, I identified with Spock to a significant degree. I was the different, nerdy kid: I was smart, loved to read, liked things that weren't mainstream cool, and wanted to go to college to get a science degree. I used to order fan stuff from the old Intergalactic Trading Company catalog back in my high school years in the 80s, often walking to a local convenience store to purchase a cashiers check as I didn't have a checking account of my own, and the one item I wanted for my first car but never got was the sticker that said "Vulcan Science Academy".*** Screw Starfleet, I wanted to hang with the Vulcans.

From Cafepress.
There's even a thong with this design; some things you just can't unsee.

It was easy to transition that love of Spock to Leonard Nimoy himself. He directed what was the most popular Star Trek movie, The Voyage Home, and he also directed several other successful movies (such as Three Men and a Baby), demonstrating that yes you can have a life beyond Star Trek.

He also lived long enough to see Star Trek, and SF/F in general, become more mainstream than ever before.

And now he's gone.

The Feels.
I don't know who created this, but
I'll assign credit when I do.

I don't think that mainstream America quite knows what we lost. The Internet simply exploded in geek circles concerning Leonard's death with tributes from all corners of geekdom. More than once I saw a commenter on a website say something to the effect of "I came here because I knew people would understand," and believe me, I know the feeling.

This is different than Robin Williams' death. Robin was beloved by many because of his overall body of work, which transcended geekdom. Leonard's best work was rooted in geekdom, and he is defined by what he means to the geek community.

Leonard will be remembered forever by his stellar
work in Westerns.... Waitaminute....

Back in college in the late 80's, I was in a conversation with a couple of fellow students about movies. Good Morning Vietnam had been out that past year, and we'd all seen it and felt that Robin had been robbed at winning an Oscar. But conversation turned to other films, and when one of the girls challenged me on whether guys are only interested in macho "guy" movies, saying "when was the last time you cried at a movie?" I told her that I cried when Spock died in The Wrath of Khan.

Big mistake.

The derisive laughter I got told me exactly where Star Trek stood in the pecking order of interests among my "sophisticated" Honors peers. I couldn't have done worse if I'd have said that Hardbodies is a fine work performed by master thespians.**** To them, Star Trek and their fans were worthy of the mockery provided by Saturday Night Live when William Shatner hosted the show.

So yeah, when people talk about how others don't understand, yeah, I know. I've been there.

You tell 'em, Data.

I'm sad that Leonard has gone, leaving Bill, Walter, George, and Nichelle as the surviving original cast members. But at the same time, I realize that Leonard will live on in both his work and the lives he touched. The original Star Trek series is a geeky touchstone in the same way that the first Star Wars movie was; those who watched it were never the same again.

Redditor MrMorlonelycat captured this image of players
of Star Trek Online serendipitously paying their respects at Vulcan.
Cryptic Studios has announced a permanent memorial for Spock and
Leonard Nimoy will be added to the game in March 5th 2015's downtime.

It is too easy to look at the world around us and not be cynical. Star Trek offered a vision of a better future, something worth striving for. And Leonard Nimoy played no small part in helping that vision play out on the screen. For that, I can thank him, and I wish him well.

Live long and prosper, Spock.

*From 1 PM until 3 PM the station showed an afternoon movie --no national daytime talk shows existed until Phil Donohue made it big-- and among the "boring" dramas I found the occasional nugget of gold, such as Ulysses starring Kirk Douglas.

**And The Flash, and Doctor Who, etc. Even Constantine, which had gotten blah reviews, is much better than anything we had in the SF/F/Superhero genre in US television in the 70s and early 80s (with the exception of The Incredible Hulk). We live in a golden age of genre television, even if we have to put up with Jerry Springer and Honey Boo-Boo.

***I was never convinced that the car would last long enough to justify the sticker; it had more Bondo on it than metal. It also had a hole in the floor where the driver would put their left foot, so as a consequence I had to put my foot in an awkward position to avoid turning the car into a Flintstones' mobile.

****It's not; don't go looking for it to see for yourself. Trust. Me.

EtA: I removed the link to Intergalactic's website, since it seems like it hasn't been updated in ages. Also, apparently customer service has declined, based on the poor reviews I've seen online.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Live Long and Prosper

Leonard Nimoy has passed away.

He'll be missed.

Update:  Here's a link to Star Trek Online's tribute.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A short note on the intersection between books and games

I've been busy at both work and home (which includes finally getting the 30 year old sliding doors replaced), so I've not had time to do much online, much less post about it. However, there is one item that stuck with me.

A week or so ago my son (mini-Red #2) asked if he could read my copy of The Silmarillion. He's his own copy of LOTR and The Hobbit, so I grabbed my hardbound version and said "Sure!"

Then as I was removing the dust jacket I discovered that the copy I'd bought brand new back in 1991 was actually a first edition printing* and I told him that I'd get him one from the library instead.

He's been reading The Silmarillion --he's up to the part where Orome discovers the Elves-- and he informed me that while it is really different in tone than what he's used to, he really likes it. But what he really finds enlightening is that he finally now understands a lot of the Kinship names that he sees around LOTRO.

I smiled at that insight, but he couldn't see it since we were driving in the car at night.

But he hit on one of the things that makes LOTRO unique among MMO circles.

While a lot of MMOs do have their share of guilds/players/etc. who pay homage to the source material, no playerbase goes to such levels of faithfulness as the LOTRO crowd does.

Sure, LOTRO has it's share of asshats --all MMOs do-- but LOTRO's playerbase is on the whole more in love with Middle-earth than any other MMO out there. And, given Star Wars and Star Trek fandom, that's saying something.

LOTRO is overdue for an update to some aspects of the game --namely the toon/NPC graphics-- but reverence for the source material is something that Turbine nailed. They'll never be the #1 subscriber based MMO out there, but their fans are very loyal and very fanatical.

*I always thought it odd that I found a new hardcover for $10.99 back then, but I wasn't about to say no to such a cheap price. Looking back on it, however, I think I got the better end of the deal by far.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sometimes You Just Can't Make This Stuff Up

Under the heading of "Oh really?" comes a report or two from Reuters claiming that Apple is working on it's own version of a car.

(What, you thought an MMO?)

The kicker is that the car project --apparently a self driving car if the reports are to be believed-- is codenamed...


No, really.